Several hundred thousand people have turned out in France this Sunday for massive anti-gay-marriage protests directed against President Francois Hollande's promise to legalize gay marriage and adoption by June, reports Reuters.
"Strongly backed" by the Catholic Church, the protestors have taken on new tactics and strategies to avoid being labeled as homophobes and prevent the rallies from backfiring. Frigide Barjot, a French comedian, leads the protests, giving them the outward appearance of being moderate. Though she plays down her religious background, Barjot is a Catholic who published a book titled Confessions of a Trendy Catholic and wore the slogan "A child is born of a man and a woman" on a pink t-shirt. They demand a referendum on the gay marriage proposal, instead of passing it through parliament, which around 85% of French conservatives support.
Barjot denies that sexual identity is a social construct, instead claiming it is an immutable and fundamental facet of nature. She claims that she wants "sex, not gender" and that she is a "marriagophile, not homophobe."
"We love homosexuals but a child must be born from a man and a woman," she said.
Anti-gay marriage activists in France are finding surprising success by recharacterizing their opposition to gay marriage as concern for families. According to polls, support for gay marriage has slid from roughly 65% to somewhere in the low 50s, whereas support for gay adoption has fallen to below 50%. The protestors now frame themselves as secular and worried about children.
"To do this properly, all you need is a referendum," said an elderly protestor. "It's normal. You talk about values. Where are the values? What's the meaning of the word. They're positive things. Here it's about negative values. We're not saying there's homophobia. There's no opposition. We're largely ready to support these people."
Of course, to believe this, one has to overlook the fact that if the law was defeated, LGBT people in France would not be allowed to marry. Far-right groups such as the National Front – which has demanded a national referendum on gay marriage – are participating in the protests. Their proclaimed anti-homophobic message is belied by hostile rhetoric from the major parties involved, demonstrating their supposed commitment to gay marriage but not adoption is a Trojan Horse for defeating both.
It is disingenuous to claim you are pro-gay, but not pro-gay marriage; just look at what Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the 70-year old head of the Catholic church in France, has to say on the protests:
"The firm position we've taken on this legal change has caused many waves. The reactions to the bill range wider than we imagined and have revealed real unease among our fellow citizens. Denouncing the fraud of same-sex marriage does not prevent us from understanding the need homosexuals feel for recognition, a need that this supposed marriage will not satisfy."
First off: where does the Catholic church get off on deciding what is better for gays? They have more-or-less refused to openly denounce a Ugandan law that would impose severe penalties up to and including death for gay people. In Britain, the church recently canceled masses for openly gay Catholics. The Pope recently demeaned the right of gay people to self-determination, saying "they deny their nature and decide it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned."
The Church's claims have much more to do with their unfounded and retrogressive views about homosexuality rather than what is good for LGBT people.
While the organizers proudly proclaim themselves to be non-political and non-religious, this looks like a cover for the same impulse: deny gays, lesbians, and other persons of nontraditional orientation the same rights France extends to heterosexuals.
And no matter what an elderly cardinal says, gay marriage is not just about acceptance and recognition. It is about ensuring that LGBT couples enjoy the same rights as the privileged majority. There is no scientific evidence that gay parents are less capable parents, or that gay parenting results in any measurable difference in life outcomes for the children – except for discrimination against LGBT individuals and families.
Fortunately, Hollande's government reportedly will be able to pass the measures in spite of such opposition. Maybe then debate can switch to real issues, like skyrocketing youth unemployment and poverty. You know – things that actually harm people.